Jul 14, 2011

Bloomberg Philanthropies Partners with NYU Wagner in 5-City Initiative

Bloomberg Philanthropies announced July 14 the establishment of a $24 million, three-year initiative to fund "Innovation Delivery Teams" that will help mayors effectively design and implement solutions to pressing city challenges, focusing on five major U.S. cities: Atlanta, Chicago, Louisville, Memphis, and New Orleans.

In an integral part of the initiative, Bloomberg Philanthropies also announced a partnership with NYU Wagner to document and share best practices across these cities, and translate those learnings into resources that other cities can use.

"NYU Wagner is proud of its work on innovation and leadership and we are excited to partner with Bloomberg Philanthropies in its new effort," said Ellen Schall, dean of Wagner. "We look forward to helping capture and synthesize key lessons across these initiatives in order to both build the knowledge base and support municipal innovation nationwide."

To meet each city's impact goals in priority areas, the new Innovation Delivery Teams, each one composed of high-performing staff, will generate innovative solutions, develop implementation plans, and manage progress towards defined targets. Bloomberg Philanthropies will fund the salaries of these staff members and provide a range of support for the project's duration.

In each city, the team will focus on top-priority issues identified by City Hall, achieving results and producing value. In Atlanta, the team will implement a comprehensive 311 system to improve customer service. In Memphis and Louisville, the teams will implement new job-growth strategies. In Chicago and New Orleans, the teams will cut waiting and processing times for key city services.

The "Innovation Delivery Team" grants are the first made through the Mayors Project, the new government innovation program at Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The Mayors Project has two goals: increase innovation capacity within municipal government and disseminate effective programs and policies across cities. Additional investments will be made through the Mayors Project over the coming year.

"Mayors are uniquely positioned to tackle some of our most pressing challenges - from growing jobs to fighting climate change to keeping quality of life high," said Michael R. Bloomberg. "The Mayors Project will fuel
these efforts by spreading effective programs and strategies between cities and helping mayors work together in new ways around solutions. We are excited to kick off this new initiative in partnership with these five great American cities."

The "Innovation Delivery Team" model draws from successful approaches that have been utilized worldwide. In New York City, for example, Mayor Bloomberg established teams to develop and implement bold anti-poverty, sustainability, and efficiency agendas. Similarly, Former Prime Minister Tony Blair formed the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit to achieve impact in transportation, education, health, and criminal justice. In Malaysia, Prime Minister Najib Razak's Performance Management and Delivery Unit has documented critical gains in advancing that nation's government and economic transformation plans.

The five cities selected are all large American cities with strong executive forms of municipal government. Most of the mayors are in the first 18 months of their first terms in office, giving the "Innovation Delivery Teams" sufficient time to achieve impact under the current administration. Team leaders shall report directly to the mayor and oversee a team of five to ten members, depending on city size and scope. Given this variation, the size of the grants awarded to each city will vary from $1.4 million to $2 million per year.

Selected Cities, Mayors and Priority Areas :

Atlanta - Mayor Kasim Reed
Introduce 311 and other initiatives to improve customer service. Dramatically reduce street homelessness

Chicago - Mayor Rahm Emanuel
Reduce waiting and processing times for key city services.
Dramatically scale energy efficiency efforts.

Louisville - Mayor Greg Fischer
Partner with Lexington to implement a new regional export strategy. Improve agency performance and public accountability.

Memphis - Mayor A C Wharton, Jr.
Increase small business growth in target neighborhoods.
Reduce handgun violence.

New Orleans - Mayor Mitch Landrieu
Reduce waiting and processing times for key city services.
Reduce homicides.

Over the past nine months, Bloomberg Philanthropies surveyed government officials and a range of philanthropic, academic, and private and nonprofit organizations, to inform its approach to government innovation. This included convening 14 mayors of major American cities for a day of strategizing and idea generation in March.

Throughout these conversations, mayors and other stakeholders have identified both a heightened need for municipal innovation - demand for services is up and pressure on municipal budgets is severe - and a set of common barriers local leaders consistently face.

These barriers include siloed bureaucracies, a lack of risk capital, inflexible regulations, and challenges associated with successfully implementing programs that have been proven elsewhere. The Mayors Project's dual focus on increasing innovation capacity within municipal government and disseminating effective programs and policies across cities aims to address these challenges.

Throughout these efforts, Bloomberg Philanthropies will identify groups of cities interested in working on particular issues. Peer-to-peer learning networks that accelerate progress and elevate best practices will be established, and lessons learned will be shared broadly with other cities, academics, and grant makers.

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